BRATTLEBORO >> Construction season is getting off to a strong start here.
Before the meeting Tuesday, Select Board Vice Chairwoman Kate O'Connor stopped by the Green Street wall to see the recently completed retaining wall.
"You can actually drive and walk down Green Street now. They did a wonderful job on that," she said. "The road is open. It looks really good."
The eastern stairwell at the Transportation Center, which is in the process of being rebuilt, is "coming along very nicely," said Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland. He anticipated it would be open by the end of the week.
"We're pretty excited about that," he said.
A flood-mitigation buyout project at 805 Western Avenue is "moving along just dandy," Moreland said. The residence was damaged in Tropical Storm Irene back in 2011.
"The closing occurred probably about a month and a half ago and we expect to be back in front of the board at your next meeting with a recommendation for a contractor to do the demolition of the property," he said. "We look forward to getting that project complete."
Finance Director John O'Connor brought to the board documents that will move the town closer to obtaining the funding necessary for upgrades at the two fire facilities and the renovation of the Reformer building, where the police department will be relocating. The newspaper will continue operations there in a separate office.
The $7.8 million bond was approved by Town Meeting Representatives in March. The rest of the approximately $13 million needed for the projects was authorized the same way in 2012 but the budget was defeated in a town-wide referendum, causing the projects to become delayed until now.
The interest rate on the new bond will not be known until July, said John O'Connor.
"This is all just the technical end of it?" Select Board member John Allen asked.
"Very much," said John O'Connor.
A resolution, certified and related documents were approved for signatures in a 4-0 vote by the board.
Approved in another unanimous vote was a grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation for impact related to reconstruction of the Interstate 91 bridge. The $200,000 will be spent on repaving parts of Upper Dummerston Road and from Allerton Avenue to Chest Nut Hill on Western Avenue. Streets in both areas were affected by the work.
O'Connor thanked the agency and governor, saying there was a recognition that Brattleboro had suffered from the delays.
In April, Agency of Transportation Secretary Chris Cole came to Brattleboro to announce the project would be pushed back a second time. The expectation now is for early spring or late summer of 2017.
"When the bridge is still going, we can ask for another (grant)," Allen said.
The board unanimously approved applying for a FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grant to purchase a piece of land along the Whetstone Brook. Officials have had their eyes on the approximately 12 acres at 250 Birge Street after studies pegged the property as prime real estate for flood mitigation.
"It's been identified as a parcel that, if it was to be restored, could provide important flood storage under flood conditions if the site was excavated — basically if the gravel was removed or piled up and rearranged in such a way that the elevation of the land is dropped somewhere between four and five feet. And the other potential for it is to work as a natural stormwater filtration space so that stormwater that currently enters the Whetstone Brook at the northern tip of the property untreated would become treated," said Rod Francis, town planning director. "Lastly, most of the recent work has looked at using it as an open space where visitors would understand the relationship between the brook and the lands around it, and how our stewardship of the land impacts the brook."
The town would own the property, but if approved, the Vermont River Conservancy will be paying the 25 percent required for its purchase.
Vermont River Conservancy Executive Director Steve Libby said his group has conducted a lot of post-flood resilience projects but the Birge Street buyout stands out.
"It's a very direct relationship between water storage on this site and lowering flood levels in downtown Brattleboro. The economics of it are pretty straightforward that dissipating the energy up here means less damage downstream," said Libby. "This is seen as obviously a very important direct benefit to downtown Brattleboro but also an example of how we can deal with future flood events statewide if we can demonstrate this."
His group — talking with the town's Planning Department and Conservation Commission, and a state hazard mitigation office for 18 months — has negotiated a purchase and sale agreement with Cersosimo Industries, the current owner. The requested amount from FEMA was $107,000. A total of $37,750 in other grant funding for the project is expected from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and Agency of Natural Resources Ecological Restoration Program. The latter was already approved.
Contact Chris Mays at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.